Study: Nanocomposite helps locate brain tumors before, during surgery

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Research published in Nanotechnology suggests that small nanocomposite, made of both magnetic and fluorescent nanoparticles have been developed that may enhance the appearance of brain tumors as well as make it easier for surgeons to identify and remove glioblastomas.

Glioblastomas are usually located in the temporal or frontal lobe of the brain and are difficult to see and remove. Neurological surgeons could benefit from a multi-functional particle that would allow them to better see the tumor with an MRI before surgery, and then see it physically during surgery, said Jessica Winter, PhD, assistant professor in chemical and biomolecular engineering at the Ohio State University in Columbus.

"We're trying to develop a single nanocomposite that's magnetic–so you can do preoperative MRI–and that's fluorescent–so that when neurological surgeons go into surgery, they can shine a light on the tumor and it will glow a specific color such as green, for example. Then, the surgeon can simply remove all of the green," Winter said.

Winter's study provided convincing proof that a particle with dual properties can be formed. However, these multi-functional particles can't be used for animal or human testing because the fluorescent particle, cadmium telluride, is toxic.

"We're currently working on an alternative fluorescent particle which is composed of carbon. This will eliminate the complications that arise with ingesting the cadmium telluride particles," Winter said.

It is normally difficult to combine fluorescent and magnetic particles. But Winter and colleagues have successfully bound their fluorescent particle on top of their magnetic particle at about 350 degrees Celsius.

The next step is to produce nanocomposite without toxicity. If results continue to be encouraging, Winter is optimistic that similar multi-functional particles could become an innovative part of neurological surgery within the next five years.

The researchers received funding from the National Science Foundation.